StewardShift: An Economia for Congregational Change by Bob Sitze is more than a breath of fresh air; it’s a much-needed alternate viewpoint on the practice of stewardship. Full of descriptive suggestions and reflective questions, it points to “stewardship wisdom” currently being explored and experienced outside the church. God’s revelation is open-ended, the book says, and is not limited to insights within religious institutions.
Many stewardship experts teach about “holistic stewardship” employed in every dimension of life. But instead of the more common look at life through a stewardship lens, Sitze points out specific stewardship practices in different secular arenas: individual areas of human enterprise where we can find “stewardship wisdom.” He provides glimpses into seven
aspects of secular discovery. These are invitations for the reader to reflect on them in light of our scriptural norm for living.
Stewardship is richer and fuller than we ever thought it was, says Sitze. It’s both more practical and more honest, dealing not only with daily individual practices, but with God’s economia, the whole of God’s work and will for the world.
People got off track about 200 years ago, the book states, when we narrowed the entire concept of stewardship into just one expression: giving. Instead of perennially linking stewardship to giving, or sublimating it to discipleship, we can allow stewardship to stand on its own with its full scope of expression. Stewardship is carrying out God’s plan for humanity and all creation.
Sitze fills StewardShift with examples from different arenas in the secular world that reveal an underlying wisdom to help us live out stewardship more deeply and extensively. In addition to surprising insights into the more expected areasof financial planning, simple living, and philanthropy, I found these intriguing possibilities:
- Community organizing, so the congregation can reframe its community outreach, building coalitions for positive change;
- How a knowledge of natural history can enhance sustainability and infuse into our stewardship ministries, from “indoor outdoor boxes” to “field trip church”;
- Positive Psychology’s research confirming the link between happiness and generosity, as well as its criticism of thirteen specific aspects of harried lifestyles that result from unrelenting materialism;
- Neuroscience’s explanation of the wonders inside the human brain and nervous system, shrewdly countering the effects of consumerism.
I highly recommend StewardShift. It invites us to look with fresh eyes not only at the Bible, but at God’s secular wisdom. It leaves us with the big stewardship question: “What is God’s will, and how can we help it get done?”
Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Betsy Schwarzentraub, a stewardship consultant, United Methodist minister (retired), and member of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center Resource Editorial
Team. Find her books and resource articles at Growing Generous Souls and Generous Stewards.